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Iraqi forces reopen streets in Baghdad and are afraid to break up protests

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — AFP correspondents reported that the Iraqi authorities reopened the squares and streets in Baghdad and southern cities on Saturday, which was confirmed by the government and raised the protesters’ fears of the expansion of the campaign and the dispersal of the demonstrations that have been going on for nearly four months.

The measures come in the wake of a large demonstration called by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad to demand the exit of US forces from Iraq, and then announced that he had stopped supporting the protest demonstrations.

Hours later, security forces stormed the protest square in the southern city of Basra, burning a number of tents and forcibly dispersing demonstrators, according to an AFP correspondent.

In Baghdad, the security forces evacuated the Aviation Square, the Muhammad al-Qasim Highway and the Al-Ahrar Bridge in the center of the capital from the demonstrators, according to a statement issued by the Baghdad Operations Command.

A medical source told AFP that six protesters were wounded.

The protesters had closed the Aviation Square and Muhammad al-Qasim Street in eastern Baghdad since Monday, in an attempt to pressure the government to implement long-awaited reforms.

The security forces also reopened Al-Ahrar Bridge, one of the most important bridges that witnessed during the past period, hit-and-run operations with the demonstrators. This bridge connects the side of Rusafa to the side of Karkh, where the heavily fortified Green Zone, which includes government headquarters and foreign embassies.

In the central Tahrir Square for protests in central Baghdad, protesters told France Press on Saturday that they heard the sound of live bullets and tear gas.

The security forces did not approach Tahrir Square, and a police source confirmed to AFP that there is no intention to do so.

The protesters, who have been protesting since the beginning of October, are afraid of losing the political cover for their movement after Sadr’s withdrawal.

Sadr, who controls the Alliance of Saireon, the largest political bloc in parliament, initially announced his support for the protests and demanded the government’s resignation.

On Friday, thousands of his supporters gathered in a demonstration to demand the expulsion of the approximately 5,200 American forces in Iraq, after the American air strike on a plane in Baghdad at the beginning of this month in which the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Authority, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, were killed.

Al-Sadr did not participate in the demonstration, but declared in a tweet that he would not interfere with the demanding movement “neither by negative nor in the affirmative.”

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